It’s the end of Strictly Come Dancing 2020 this weekend and ends one of the few guaranteed rays of light in the current hellish landscape we’re in.
Despite all the difficulties, the professional dancers create a bubble to perform group routines before separating from their families as the series progresses. Katya Jones and Nicola Adams get the boot thanks to a Covid-19 diagnosis that Motsi Mabuse has to isolate mid-series itself – Strictly played a blind man this year.
We had amazing group numbers, Motsi served non-stop lewks, Shirley Ballas repped the woman in a pink cowboy hat for six weeks, Max George dressed up as Homer Simpson, and of course, amazing celebrity talent.
It was clear from the start that the standard at Strictly was high this year. HRVY got a nine for his jive with Janette Manrara in week one and he got the first 10 of the series just three weeks later. Despite finishing in the bottom two positions twice, Maisie Smith has been delivering near-professional appearances week after week and last week she got her first perfect score for her street dance with Gorka Marquez.
Now these two couples are battling two more for the Glitzerball trophy – but for me there is a true winner of the series, and it’s not the celebrity with a perfect 30.
Along with Maisie, HRVY and Jamie Laing, Bill Bailey is in the running for the 2020 champion title, and I can’t think of a more fitting winner.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Bill, from Black Books to Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and I knew he had a few moves just because his Skins character was dancing with his dog.
But as happy as I was that he had joined the line-up, I wasn’t expecting any big things – and let’s be honest, neither were the bosses. As a quirky guy in the mid-50s, Bill – together with Jacqui Smith – was used as one of the « joke acts » in addition to the very young cast of actors.
He was dating Oti Mabuse, the most talented and fabulous professional of them all, but the reigning champion, and they didn’t have to give her the bookies’ favorites.
Just, that’s exactly what they did. Fast forward to the final, and Bill ousts his rivals as favorites for the Glitterball trophy, giving Oti her well-deserved second win in a row.
Not only would this be a shame win – Bill Bailey is a dancer, baby. His quick pace to talk to the animals was light-footed and joyful enough to distract from the CGI elephants on the dance floor. his tango to Enter Sandman a surprising and daring interpretation of the dramatic dance; his street dance to Rapper’s Delight has become legendary.
Bill surprised us all with his grace and lightness of feet, and we never want someone we know who will be good – we want the growth, we want the journey.
But talent is not enough in the final. As brilliant as Bill is, his highest score dance was 27 while his average score was 23. 7th. Maisie has an average of 26. 7 while HRVY averages 26. 1 and two perfect results with Janette (Jamie and Karen are at the bottom of the field with an average of 22. 7). So shall we go on points?
No disrespect to Maisie and HRVY, but no. We have to go with the couple that embodies the spirit of Strictly and that is Bill and Oti.
Bill is a musician, so he has this built-in rhythm, but he wasn’t a trained dancer – just someone who took the challenge with both hands and turned all preconceptions about him on the dance floor.
He took the competition seriously, but not to the point of arrogance. He suffered slight missteps but always gave his best to every dance.
He’s shown that being a great dancer and not patronizing Bill is no barrier – he’s a good dancer for all ages – but that inspires Strictly audiences who may be thinking from their couches, that it is too late to try the jive or the waltz.
(Especially if Bill wins, he’ll be by far the oldest person to lift the glitter ball without a champion ever in their forties, let alone fifties. )
But most of all – it’s fun. Yes, Strictly is about footwork and posture, as well as controlled free arm and spots and straight legs, and booing Craig Revel Horwood, but it’s mostly about fun.
As much as I love a ballroom dance with 30 points, I won’t love it if the celebrity hasn’t had fun with it and Bill exudes joy from every pore.
When I saw him dancing to the Sugarhill Gang in a suit, I couldn’t pull the smile off my face and that’s what I need from Strictly.
In weeks when restaurants were closed and I was forbidden from seeing friends or visiting babies in different counties, I knew I could turn on the TV and experience real happiness when Bill Bailey did a Charleston or ballroom dance turned into Metallica.
Because strictly speaking, it’s not all about dance skills. That’s how we feel. It’s the campness, the glitter, the spectacle, the joy that only a former politician who dances to Gangnam Style can bring.
It is reminiscent of these unique achievements, not the technically highly perfect ones. It’s about finding an unlikely dancer and thinking that if we focus on it, maybe we could make such a good move too.
All dancers in the final would be worthy winners. But there’s only one that represents Strictly for everything I love about it, and Bill and Oti raising the glitter ball would be one thing that couldn’t ruin 2020.
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Strictly Come Dancing, Maisie Smith, Oti Mabuse, Bill Bailey, Hrvy, Janette Manrara and Jamie Laing
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